Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. (Daniel X. O’Neil / Flickr / CC-BY-2.0)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has made an example of his city’s top cop, police Superintendent Garry McCarthy — by firing him.

The news about McCarthy’s ouster broke Tuesday, one week after the release of video footage showing the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by Chicago police Officer Jason Van Dyke. The New York Times reported details of Emanuel’s decision:

Mr. Emanuel was on the defensive throughout a news conference on Tuesday, his characteristic fiery manner kept in check as reporters suggested political motives for the city’s moves — at one point, in response to a question, he said, “I just, if I could, beg to differ on that.” He was asked repeatedly why the video was not released last fall or early this year, while he was in a tough re-election fight; why he removed Mr. McCarthy and took other measures only after the uproar caused by the video’s release; and whether he was adequately shouldering responsibility for what had occurred.

“I’m responsible,” he said, acknowledging what he said was a history of abuse of force by the Chicago police. “I don’t shirk that responsibility. I have taken certain steps prior to this day. I’m taking steps today.”

As for building public trust in himself, he said, “I have a lot of work to do at that.”

Mr. Emanuel was forced into a runoff in the mayor’s race earlier this year, in part because of anger in mostly black and Latino neighborhoods over the closure of nearly 50 public schools and a standoff with Chicago schoolteachers that led to a strike. He was re-elected in April but is now facing skepticism in some of the same neighborhoods over the police treatment of young black people and over how his office handled the McDonald case in the 13 months before video of it became public.

Critics of the police have suggested a cover-up, noting missing surveillance video from a Burger King near the shooting scene that might have shed light on what happened the night Mr. McDonald was killed. The Justice Department is investigating.

Emanuel’s gesture, however, may not be enough to ensure that he will hold onto his own job in the long run.

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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